Becoming Human, by Lbilover

This is a sequel to my story Almost Human, in which Elijah is a runaway android, rescued by robot mechanic Sean. There will be more of their story eventually, but this should stand on its own.


The vintage Thunderbird convertible drew considerable attention at the hoverport. Cars were a quaint novelty, a glimpse back to an earlier time when humans were tethered to the ground except for clumsy airplanes. In this age of hover-flight it was almost laughable to see one, but no few people were also envious of the car with its gleaming chrome and bright red paint, and of the young man sitting in the driver's seat, the sun shining on his chestnut hair.

A large hover-transport arrived at the station and its passengers began to disembark. The young man got out of the car and leaned against the highly polished hood with crossed arms, but the eagerness in his gaze as he scanned the arrivals belied his nonchalant pose. As their number dwindled, his expression turned from eagerness to disappointment, and he straightened, hands limp at his sides as if he didn't know what to do with them.

Because, right at that moment, Sean Astin didn't. He'd been planning toward this moment for ten long months with single-minded intensity and now...

"Sean?" a voice said, and he whipped around. He scanned the passers-by until his gaze alighted on a young man with tousled brown hair, wearing khakis and a white button-down and glasses with thick black frames. For a moment Sean stared, uncertain, until he recognized the bright blue eyes behind the glasses.

"Elijah," Sean breathed, disappointment vanishing in a flash. Next instant the two were hugging, Elijah's arms wound tightly around Sean's neck.

Eventually they pulled apart and Sean said, "I didn't recognize you without the blue hair." He huffed a laugh and ruffled the now auburn locks. "I was afraid maybe you'd changed your mind."

"Never!" Elijah exclaimed, catching Sean's hand and holding it as if it were a lifeline. "They thought it would be safer if I dyed it."

"Definitely safer, and the glasses are another good touch." Sean nodded approvingly. "Fuck," he added, his eyes unapologetically damp, "it's so good to see you again, Elijah."

"And you, too, Sean," Elijah replied. He grinned sheepishly. "I've totally sucked at my lessons lately. All I could think about was seeing you and yourautomobile."

"Don't you mean my au-to-mo-bile?" Sean teased. He stepped back, waved a hand. "So, does she live up to your expectations?"

"Oh Sean!" Elijah's eyes were wide and wondering as he examined the Thunderbird from bumper to bumper. "She's beautiful. I can't believe you built her all by yourself."

"A labor of love," Sean said. "It probably would've taken me a lot longer to finish her, but I had an incentive to get the job done." He grinned. "You, in case you were wondering. Now come on, climb in and I'll take you for a spin."

Elijah did climb in, with alacrity. His face was flushed with pleasure, a pleasure that owed as much to Sean's reason for getting the job done as to the fulfillment a dream that had sustained him during his months at the compound learning to impersonate - no, he corrected himself - to become a human.

"I thought we'd take a ride out to the desert," Sean said, starting the car with the push of a button. "The roads out there are still in decent shape and the flowers will be blooming."

While around them hovercraft shot away with their familiar hum, the Thunderbird pulled more slowly out into the road.

"It's so quiet," Elijah said. "I thought car engines were noisy."

"They were, but I put a solar engine in her. Not quite the same thing, but," Sean's face darkened, "burning fossil fuels is the main reason we almost succeeded in destroying this planet." But then he smiled. "However, we didn't succeed and it's a beautiful day and we should enjoy it."

"I agree. There's enough depressing talk at the compound," Elijah said with feeling.

"But you're doing well?" Sean glanced over at him, frowning. "I'm sorry we've only been able to talk a couple times, but Viggo limits outside interaction to protect the compound from discovery. There are people who will do just about anything to find out where it's located and destroy the Underground Railroad."

Elijah nodded. "I know. And I am doing well, Sean. That other life... before... it seems like a bad dream now."

"With very good reason." Sean felt a surge of anger as he recalled what Elijah told him about Travis, his 'owner', and the abuse he'd suffered at the son of a bitch's hands. He forced himself to let it go and said, "But the bad dream is over, Elijah, so sit back, relax and enjoy your first ride in a car. You want to listen to some music?"

"I'd love that. Can I pick what we listen to?" Elijah asked. In addition to reading, he'd listened to a lot of music when Travis wasn't home, and discovered in himself a passion for it.

"Sure thing." Sean was enchanted by Elijah's shining eyes and open, eager expression, so different from the timid, fearful one he'd been wearing when Sean discovered him in his workshop, trying to repair his own broken leg. "How's your leg, by the way?"

"They checked it out when I got to the compound and it's perfect." Elijah flexed it in demonstration and Sean's gaze was briefly drawn to the outline of a well-shaped thigh beneath the khaki material.

"Hey, I'm the best robot mechanic there is," he said. "Of course it's perfect." Elijah laughed, and Sean added, "I can't tell you how fantastic it is to hear you laugh, Elijah."

"I like to laugh. I think," Elijah added slowly, "that I was supposed to. That I was programmed to, I mean."

"Or maybe you're just happy," Sean remarked. "Ever think about that?"

"I'm happy right now, being with you."

Sean felt a warm glow inside. When they'd parted ten months ago outside his repair shop, Sean had wondered if Elijah would ever return. Oh, he'd said he felt more than gratitude and that he wouldn't change his mind about coming back to see Sean, but Sean had harbored doubts. They'd only known each other for a few precious hours. And he would've understood if, once Elijah got to the compound, met Viggo and Orli and Liv and the others, he forgot about the mechanic who fixed his broken leg. Elijah had only existed for eighteen months, after all, months spent with that bastard Travis, who had abused him.

But Elijah had kept his word, and Sean couldn't ever remember feeling happier himself than he was right that moment, cruising along a nearly deserted highway with the wind soft on his face and Elijah scanning through the contents of Sean's music collection, projected holographically in front of him, with a forefinger.

Eventually Elijah settled on a song and said, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car."

"Perfect choice," Sean remarked as The Beatles' tune poured from the speakers. After a moment he started singing along. Elijah joined him and they kept on singing for the sheer joy of it as the rest of Rubber Soul played. From time to time a car would pass them coming the other way, and Sean tooted the Thunderbird's horn and they waved at the other driver.

After about an hour, Sean pulled off the main highway onto a muddy dirt road, pockmarked by shallow dips partially filled with water left from the torrential rains a week earlier. "I'll have to give my girl a bath when we get home," he said, slowing to navigate a particularly deep dip so the car didn't bottom out.

"Why do you call the car a girl?" Elijah asked curiously. Despite his months of tutelage, there was much yet to learn about human ways, and he wanted to learn everything about Sean that he could during this too-brief visit.

Sean shrugged. "Not sure really. It's what guys have always called their cars."

"Oh." Elijah considered what Sean had said. "Then shouldn't she have a name?"

"What do you suggest?" Sean asked, and felt a tug at his heart. Of course that would matter to Elijah, whom Travis had called 'Nine' as if he were no more than a hovercraft on the Ford assembly line.

Elijah thought for a minute. "How about Maisie, from the Henry James book? It's such a pretty name."

And also a character with whom Elijah must identify very strongly, Sean suspected. "Maisie it is. I agree: it's a very pretty name." Then he said, "I didn't know Henry James is on the curriculum at the compound."

"It's not," Elijah replied. "I read What Maisie Knew when I was living with Travis. He had a shelf full of old books that belonged to his grandfather and I read them all." He added defiantly, "He told me not to touch them but I did, when he wasn't home." For a moment he panicked, afraid that Sean would be angry; overcoming the old fears was growing easier, but still presented a challenge. But even before Sean said approvingly, "Good for you," Elijah knew that he had no reason to worry: Sean was no Travis.

Sean steered Maisie off the road and came to a stop at the top of a small hill. "Well, here we are. What do you think?"

Spread before them were acres upon acres of desert covered in millions of rainbow-hued wildflowers.

"Oh Sean, it's beautiful," Elijah said in awe.

"It is that," replied Sean, but his eyes were on Elijah and his thoughts were on how beautiful he was and how much he had missed him. "But what about a closer look? I know a nice spot where we can spread out a blanket and eat the lunch I packed."

"I'd love that." Elijah's eyes were sparkling.

They climbed out of Maisie and Sean reached an arm into the back seat to remove a large thermofabric hold-all.

"Let me take that," Elijah said, hurrying around the front of the car.

But Sean held out a hand to ward him off. "Nuh-uh. I'll carry it. Elijah, your days as a servant are over. You're my equal in every way. I'm sure they've been drumming that into your head at the compound."

A mulish look came over Elijah's features. "That doesn't mean I can't make up my own mind, Sean. Maybe I want to be helpful. You know, like you said maybe I'm just happy and it has nothing to do with my programming."

Sean laughed. "Okay, point taken, but I'm still carrying the bag. It'll be good training for you."

Elijah subsided, although he was clearly uncomfortable with the dynamic. One of the most difficult things for an android to overcome was being 'programmed to please', as the A-1 Android commercials put it. Learning to disobey an embedded imperative, like carrying things for a human, was tough, and the helpers had an inviolable rule not to alter any android's programming, to respect their rights as an individual able to make their own choices.

What they'd discovered over time was that reprogramming wasn't necessary. But unnecessary didn't mean simple or easy, and normally three or four years elapsed before a robot was ready to re-enter the world as a human. Sean well knew that under usual circumstances an excursion like the one today would have been strongly discouraged, considered far too risky for an android who'd only escaped slavery ten months earlier. But Elijah, as Sean had realized almost at once, was different, exceptional. He'd learned to override his built-in programming without help and with astonishing speed. In private conversations with Sean, Viggo had expressed his amazement at Elijah's progress and outlined certain plans he had for the young android - assuming Elijah was willing to go along with them.

As they walked along a narrow path down the hill, Sean glanced at Elijah, at the smile of delight curving his lips and how his eyes darted this way and that, taking everything in. In his mind Sean heard Viggo's voice saying, "We need him, Sean. He could be the key to persuading the government to ban the robot trade and grant androids full legal status. Every successful movement throughout history has had a face. Elijah can be ours. He's nearly flawless already. By the time he's completed training and is ready to leave, he'll pass for human anywhere. Which is why we need him to stay and work with us."

Viggo was right, of course. Legal status for androids was what the underground had been working toward for years. But Sean, an all too fallible human, didn't see Elijah as a symbol of robot resistance. He saw him as an attractive young man with whom he'd unexpectedly fallen in love.

"Whether Elijah agrees to become our face will largely depend on you, Sean," Viggo had added quietly, and Sean knew that it was true. A time was soon coming when he would have to weigh his personal feelings against the greater good. But not right now. They had this day and tomorrow together, and he wouldn't let anything blight the joy of their reunion.

And joy it was. They were practically wading through an ocean of wildflowers of every possible color, and Elijah kept stopping simply to touch and smell them. "This is amazing," he said. "I've never seen anything like it, Sean."

"The blooming season doesn't last long out here in the desert. Most of the time it's pretty barren except for cactus and creosote, so you have to grab the opportunity when you can."

Elijah bent, buried his face in a clump of purple flowers. He didn't know what they were called, and right then it didn't matter. All that mattered was hiding his expression from Sean. Humans, he thought with a sickening lurch, were like these wildflowers: blooming for a season and then dying. A different kind of fear filled Elijah from any he had ever experienced. Sean was human. He, too, would age and die - while Elijah, however successfully he managed to impersonate a human, would remain forever unchanged. Determinedly he pushed the desolate reality away, straightened and asked, "Where are we going?"

"Not far; we're almost there," Sean said.

Another narrow path branched off, winding through the flowers. It led to a clearing, at the center of which was a circle fashioned from the ubiquitous gray-brown rocks. Inside the circle the charred remains of firewood revealed its purpose.

"I like to come here at night, by myself," Sean said, setting down the bag. "Camp out, look at the stars. Billy and a few other friends join me sometimes. We build a fire and Billy plays his guitar. It's nice." He took a large navy blue blanket from one pocket of the bag, shook it open, and spread it over the ground. "I'd love to do that with you, too, Elijah, but not tonight." He glanced up at Elijah and smiled.

Elijah's cheeks flushed under the implicit promise in that smile. Tonight he would be staying in Sean's home. In his bed? Oh, how he hoped so. At times, during his months in servitude with Travis, he'd felt that he would never want to have sex with anyone ever again if he managed to escape. But he couldn't have been more wrong. He wanted to have sex with Sean. He wanted to please him. And it had nothing whatsoever to do with his programming.

"Have a seat," Sean said. "I don't know about you, but I'm starving. Let's eat and then we can talk. I want to hear all about what you've been up to at the compound." He removed their lunch - cheese sandwiches and pickles and a six-pack of beer and a bag of potato chips - from the hold-all and set them on the blanket. "I hope this okay, Elijah. I'm not much of a cook. But I did splurge on real cheese, not the fake crap." It had cost a fortune, as any 'real' food did these days, but Sean counted it well worth the cost.

"It's fine, honestly," Elijah said. He sat down cross-legged and said softly, "Being with you is more important than a fancy meal."

Sean handed him a sandwich and said with a grin, "Hold that thought. You haven't had a dinner I've cooked yet."

Elijah replied, "I can help you. I love to cook."

"All right, it's a deal." Sean twisted the caps off two of the beers and passed one to Elijah, then opened the chips and set the bag down between them.

They ate in silence, listening to the wind whistle across the desert and stir the heads of the blossoms so that they moved in mesmerizing, undulating waves and gave off the sweetest of scents. Occasionally hovercraft passed overhead, the hum gradually increasing in volume and then fading away, their shadows like small, swift-moving clouds. Twice the comlink on Sean's wrist flashed, but he ignored it. He ignored everything but Elijah. Their acquaintance had been so brief and hurried that to sit beside him like this sharing a simple meal was a luxury he intended to savor more than the pricey cheese. For all the beauty around them, Sean's eyes were oftener on Elijah and from the number of times their eyes met, he knew it was mutual.

When they were finished eating, Sean cleared away the remains of their meal, stowing the two bottles of unopened beer in the cool pocket of the hold-all. Then he yawned. The sun was pleasantly warm, his stomach was pleasantly full, and he'd been up most of the night cleaning and waxing Maisie so she'd look her best for Elijah. The combination made him decidedly sleepy.

"Are you tired?" Elijah asked with quick concern.

"A little," Sean admitted. "A short nap sounds good right about now." Another pleasant sensation made itself known at Elijah's concern for him, a stirring and tightening in his groin. He had plans for tonight that involved staying very much awake and active. A nap was sounding better and better.

Elijah said, "Then nap, Sean. I don't mind, honestly." He couldn't technically sleep, only fake it, but he felt a thrill at the thought of sitting and watching Sean do so. But Sean surprised him.

"Only if you nap with me," Sean said. He sank back on the blanket and held out an arm. "Come here," he invited.

Elijah obediently scooted over on his butt and slid down alongside Sean, to be gathered into a tight, secure embrace along Sean's right side. He rested his cheek on a hard-muscled shoulder and wanted to cry for the happiness that filled him in that moment.

"This is nice," Sean murmured, running a lazy hand up and down the length of Elijah's arm. "Real nice." The languid movements went on for another minute or so. "Elijah, I..." he began, but then his hand stilled and his eyelids drooped shut and he fell asleep.

As they'd settled themselves, Elijah's right hand ended up resting on Sean's chest. Now, Elijah watched with the profoundest fascination as his hand rose and fell and rose and fell with each slow, steady breath that Sean took. The simple white tee shirt Sean wore was warm and faintly damp, molded to his skin, and beneath Elijah's palm his heart beat with reassuring regularity.

It was strange, Elijah thought, how Travis's touch and smell had repelled him, while Sean's made him feel safe - and also undeniably aroused. His eyes greedily examined Sean, taking in and saving every minutest detail: the shadows his eyelashes cast on his cheeks, and how the sunlight glinted off the golden tips of the curled lashes; the hint of stubble that showed Sean could easily grow a beard and tempted Elijah to run his fingertip along the line of his jaw to enjoy the rasp; the myriad shades of his wind-tousled hair, from sun-bleached wheat to darkest honey; the faint freckles along the line of his throat; the strands of crisp chest-hair peaking out of the neckline of his shirt.

At any time in the future, Elijah would be able to conjure these details with absolute clarity, for his memory was not as a human's, his brain a computer. One of the biggest challenges facing him and his fellow androids was learning how to temper their perfect recall. Human memory was far more porous; even with the technological aids that made facts and figures almost instantly available, no human could react like an android. But though Elijah had often had cause to wish he'd been born and not created, at that moment he was glad to be what he was.

Because his visit with Sean was far too brief; he was due back at the compound tomorrow night. Viggo had not been happy with him for leaving even for two days. He was a fair and just man, who cared passionately for the rights of androids. Even so, Elijah knew that if Viggo could have prevented him from going, he would have. But though he nearly idolized the compound's founder, the organizer of the android underground, the savior of hundreds of enslaved robots, Elijah would not be swayed.

And this beautiful, sleeping human was the reason why.

Untold minutes ticked past, and then, idly, Elijah began to skim his hand over Sean's chest, loving the play of muscle beneath his palm. His fingertips accidentally grazed one of Sean's nipples. Sean's breath hitched and he murmured something inaudible. Before Elijah's fascinated gaze, the nipple peaked, pushing up the white cotton. He let his fingers drift to the other nipple and brush, deliberately this time, across it. The response was immediate; another tight bud appeared.

Sean murmured again and shifted his hips. Elijah's eyes were drawn to the juncture of his thighs where an undeniable bulge was growing. His body's response to the sight was instinctive and immediate; his fingers closed convulsively in Sean's shirt, bunching the fabric and revealing a strip of honeyed skin and a line of bronze-gold hair that disappeared beneath the waistband of his jeans.

Elijah moved closer, pressing his aching groin against the sharp jut of Sean's hipbone. He wanted to grind into it, he wanted to follow that treasure trail, slide his fingers under the waistband and wrap them around Sean's cock. He wanted to take it out and suckle it, pleasure Sean with his mouth until he came and Elijah could drink him down.

Guiltily, Elijah eased his body back, relaxed his grip on the tee shirt. He had no right to be thinking or acting this way when Sean was asleep. Then he jumped as a husky voice said, "Don't stop just when things are getting interesting." His eyes met Sean's. They were half-lidded but very much awake and aware - and aroused. His pupils had expanded until the irises were nearly obliterated.

"I'm sorry," Elijah said. "I shouldn't have wakened you."

"Shit, darlin'," Sean drawled, "don't apologize. I've never in my life been wakened so sweetly."

"Really?" It hadn't occurred to Elijah to wonder or worry about previous lovers in Sean's life, but it seemed he wouldn't have to.

"Really. So I'm all in favor of us continuing what you started."

"I thought we were going to talk," Elijah reminded him, although truthfully the idea held zero appeal.

Sean grinned. "We can still talk. How's this? I want to make love to you, right here, right now, under the open sky. I want to undress you and put my mouth all over you and my cock inside you and watch your face as you come."

If Elijah was supposed to contribute a share to the talk, he failed miserably. Tears prickled his eyes and he blinked hard. Sean wanted to make love to him. Travis had never made love to Elijah, he had only used him like a sex toy and then ordered him to get the fuck out of his sight.

"Hey, that was supposed to turn you on, not make you cry." Sean cupped a hand at the back of Elijah's head, fingers tangling in his hair. "Guess I'll have to show you what I mean. But first, let's get rid of these glasses." He removed them, tossing them to the far end of the blanket, out of the way. Then, grasping Elijah's upper arm, he tugged until Elijah was lying on top of him, cradled between his strong thighs. He framed Elijah's face between his palms and said, "How's that?" He moved his hips, dragging his arousal against Elijah's. "Good?"

For answer, Elijah whimpered and gasped, "Yes." His body tingled all over and his cock was throbbing.

"It's about to get even better." He pulled Elijah down and into a kiss, his mouth moving hungrily, greedily and with a skill that told Elijah he was no stranger to kissing.

"Sean, oh Sean," Elijah said between kisses, and felt more alive, more human, than he'd known it was possible to feel. Sean couldn't seem to get enough, kissing Elijah over and over, his hands moving from his arms to his hips and finally to his ass, kneading it while his tongue explored the interior of Elijah's mouth, until Elijah trapped it, sucking on it hard and glorying in the moan torn from Sean's throat. Sean tasted faintly of the beer he'd drunk, and his mouth was hot and wet and velvety smooth.

Elijah could have gone on trading kisses like that for hours, as a delicious tension grew inside him, blossoming like the desert wildflowers in a nurturing rain. But Sean, it seemed, was no longer content with kisses alone, because abruptly he tore his mouth away and gasped, "Shit, too many clothes." His chest was rising and falling rapidly now, his cock rock-hard and burning against Elijah's. "I can't make good on what I told you if you're dressed, and I'm damned if I'm going to come in my shorts like a horny teen instead of inside you."

They rolled apart quickly and undressed even faster, too desperate now to spare more than a glance at what the other was revealing. As soon as the last item of clothing - Elijah's briefs - was flung away, they came together again, only now Elijah was on his back beneath Sean, who knelt straddling his thighs, his impressively large cock, flushed crimson, standing proudly out from its nest of deep bronze curls, the flared head already leaking clear fluid that dripped onto Elijah's belly, trickled over his hip where the pale skin was now bare of the betraying serial number that had given him his original name and marked him as a slave.

"I'm going to have to save the kissing you all over part for tonight," Sean said in a tight voice. "Raise your legs."

Obediently Elijah did, drawing his knees in and up, and Sean stooped, ducking his shoulders so that Elijah's legs were draped over them, his heels touching the middle of Sean's back. Sean braced his hands on the blanket, fingers spread wide, and pushed forward until Elijah's knees were up by his ears and he was fully exposed and vulnerable. As a robot mechanic, Sean knew Elijah's flexibility, and knew, too, how androids like Elijah had been made, shamefully, to be sex toys, lubricated and ready.

It wouldn't be like that for Elijah, he vowed. And so, looking deep into Elijah's eyes he said, "Elijah, I love you," and only then did he push, slowly and carefully, inside him. The hot narrow passage entrapping his aching cock was nearly enough to destroy his self-control, but he mastered himself, reminding himself that this wasn't about him, but about Elijah, who had never known love before.

Sean's arms quivered with the effort of staying still as he braced himself above Elijah. Sweat trickled down his temples and he heaved for breath, but he managed to get out, "Are you all right?"

And Elijah, his eyes glowing, answered, "I've never been more all right." He tightened his inner body around Sean, dug his heels into his back, and added impatiently, "Now stop worrying and fuck me."

So Sean did, relaxing his rigid hold and finally allowing himself the bliss of movement. Once unleashed, there was no stopping it, but Elijah met each thrust eagerly, fiercely. Their mouths blindly met and mated, their fingers twined together, forming a tight cocoon around Elijah's cock for him to thrust into.

Light, sound, color merged and blurred. No awareness of their surroundings was left to them. They might have been anywhere and everywhere at once. All that existed was the maelstrom of passion that picked them up, spun them around, and finally cast them down, limp, spent and utterly changed forever.

Neither spoke for a long, long time. Then at last Elijah said in a broken whisper, "For the first time in my life I feel truly human, Sean." And he began to cry in earnest.


Elijah fell in love with Sean's house, tucked away at the end of a winding lane and screened from the road by evergreens. It was small, on one level, with an open floor plan and a deck that overlooked the Pacific ocean. The kitchen and bathroom were tiny, the bed large and inviting, and it was cluttered and none too clean. Stacks of tattered books and magazines from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, mainly about cars and trains, filled the shelves, and everywhere, blinking and whirring, were tiny robotic twenty-second century wonders that Sean had built in his spare time. Some were practical, some not, but each was exquisite in its workmanship - and none bore any resemblance to a human. Evidence of his tinkering was everywhere, and Sean apologized as he cleared the kitchen table of tools and parts.

"I'm a terrible housekeeper," he admitted, "and my robots can only do so much. But I did wash and change the sheets at least."

"I love it here," Elijah said with absolute truth. "It's perfect." He already felt as if it were home.

Elijah, seeing that Sean hadn't been lying about his ineptitude in the kitchen, pushed Sean into a chair with an assurance that once would have been impossible, and took over making dinner. It seemed strange to be grateful to Travis for anything, but Sean's enjoyment of the meal, and the flattering things he said to Elijah, made him glad of this one thing, at least. He wished he didn't have to go back to the compound, that he could stay and cook Sean wonderful meals and make love to him every night. Someday, he thought, and a thrill went through him.

They didn't linger over the grilled pepper crusted sirloin, Caesar salad and steak fries, but left the dishes piled in the sink and went to bed - but not to sleep. They made love again, but this time slowly, lingeringly, and Sean made good on his promise to put his mouth all over Elijah's naked body. Their climax when it came was no less shattering, but they took their time getting there, drawing out every caress, every kiss, for as long as they could manage.

Afterward, lying close together in the quiet dark, they talked. Sean told Elijah about his family, his mom and dad and younger brother, and Elijah told Sean about his life at the compound in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, about Liv and Orlando and Miranda, the androids responsible for teaching him and the others how to become human. But he talked mostly about Viggo, and his evident admiration, almost hero worship, for the man left Sean conflicted, thinking about his conversations with Viggo and the revelation of his plans for Elijah, plans of which clearly Elijah had no knowledge yet.

But Sean said nothing to Elijah about what Viggo had confided to him. Elijah had to return to the compound and finish his training. He didn't want to cast a shadow over his time there or cause any tension between Elijah and Viggo. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, he thought. He had a selfish reason for his silence, too: given a choice between Sean and Viggo, between Sean and the welfare of his kind, which would Elijah choose? He didn't want to know the answer to that question, not tonight.

"Enough talking," he said, almost roughly. "You can tell me the rest later. Right now I need you, Elijah." And he pressed him back into the pillows, placed his hand on the growing hardness as proof, and nothing more was said for a long time.


In the morning, after a late breakfast, Elijah helped Sean wash Maisie outside in the warm sunshine, restoring her to her pristine condition. Sean playfully sprayed him with water from the hose, Elijah retaliated by a throwing a soapy sponge at Sean's head, and by the time they were done, both were soaked to the skin and laughing helplessly. They retreated inside to dry off, but after stripping off their wet clothes and putting them in the dryer, they made a beeline for the bed, dove onto it naked, and lingered there as long as they dared.

But all too soon it was time to leave for the hoverport. Sean backed Maisie out of the garage, Elijah climbed in, and they drove away. Elijah craned his neck to look behind him until the house could no longer be seen. Then he faced forward, his throat tight, his eyes dim.

Sean took his hand. "Don't be sad," he said quietly. "You'll be back here before you know it."

Elijah clung to his hand, trying not to think about the desert wildflowers, so swift to bloom, so swift to die. Every moment away from Sean was like a grain of sand trickling through an hourglass, never to be regained, and when the last grain had fallen, what then? He could see nothing but darkness beyond. But he only said, "I know."

As they neared the hoverport, Elijah took out his glasses and put them on, and checked that his forged I.D. card and ticket were in his pocket. Sean parked Maisie outside the busy entrance, oblivious to the curious, amused or envious stares of the people exiting or entering the steep escalators up to the terminals. He and Elijah got out of the car, looked at each other for a moment and then came together in a long, tight embrace.

"I love you," Sean said. "Never forget that, not for a single minute."

"I won't," Elijah replied. "Sean, I love you, too." He said the words for the first time, understanding their full weight and depth, believing at last that he had the right to say them to a human and to receive them in return. "I'm going to miss you so much."

Sean kissed him once, softly, and said, "We'll talk soon, I promise, and Maisie and I will be waiting right here for you in this same exact spot when you come back. Now go on, before I decide to stop being noble and beg you not to leave." Because I don't honestly know if I'm telling you the truth, if you ever will come back. He felt his hard-won composure beginning to crack.

Elijah bent and picked up the small suitcase at his feet. He hesitated as if he were going to say something else, then he swallowed hard, whispered, "Goodbye," and hurried away, disappearing into the crowd.

"Shit," Sean said, rubbing the heels of his hands into his stinging eyes. Quickly he got into Maisie and left before he actually did stop being noble and did something stupid, like running after Elijah, snatching him up and carrying him away. It wasn't until he'd parked her in the garage again and shut off the engine that he bowed his head over the steering wheel and wept.


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